wheelchairs that will bring passengers to the gate?

These Wheelchairs Will Automatically Bring Passengers To Their Gates

It’s common for passengers who rely on wheelchairs to ask for support at the airport. But as staffing shortages have become an issue, American Airlines has come up with a solution to make their passengers’ lives easier. 

American Airlines introduced wheelchairs that will automatically ferry its passengers to their respective gates. The airline partnered with Japanese mobility device company Whill to offer the first “autonomous devices” in US airports. These wheelchairs are initially available in Los Angeles and Miami.  

Whill’s VP of business development for North America Shane Bogni said, “If you think about the wheelchair experience at an airport, it’s really a 40-year-old idea.” He added, “Nothing’s changed. There’s been no innovation.”

Electric Wheelchairs

These wheelchairs run on electricity. In addition to this, Whill is teaming up with American-owned Envoy Air in charge of its additional services. This includes luggage loading, cabin cleaning, and wheelchair support. 

How exactly does it navigate airports? Whill has come up with blueprints of Terminal D in Miami and Terminal 4 in LA that can be used as “invisible rail lines.” The devices then follow these to reach each gate. 

After going through security with an airport staff, the passenger will go to the waiting area. Close to their departure time, the passenger will then use the autonomous device. Here, the device comes with a slot for luggage at the back, plus it has a touchscreen to enter the desired gate. 

The devices have cameras and sensors that evaluate the distances of different objects using laser lights. The wheelchair will also alarm if it approaches a person. Then, the wheelchair asks people to step aside or it makes a small detour. 

These devices will benefit people with disabilities and elderly passengers having difficulty walking. For now, the device can only get passengers to the gate, then the staff would still have to take passengers from the gate to the plane. 

Simplifies Airport Navigation

This device could simplify navigation through airports. Bogni said, “Navigation through airports is complex, particularly big hubs.” He added, “People just get a little overwhelmed.” 

Bogni said that 80% of people who request wheelchair assistance can walk some distance. However, the Miami terminal is a mile long, which can be a bit too far for some individuals. He also said that these devices could replace the bulky golf-cart-like vehicles. 


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John Michael Jayme
John Michael Jayme is a Travel Analyst for The Jet Set. He writes about news and events affecting the travel industry.


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